- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

BERLIN — Islamist terror groups are becoming increasingly active in Germany and coordinating with militants across Europe to recruit fighters to join the insurgency in Iraq, equipping them with fake passports, money and medical supplies, security officials say.

One of the best examples of the cross-continent cooperation involves an Algerian man arrested in Germany and now on trial in Italy for purportedly helping Muslims from Somalia, Egypt, Iraq and Morocco recruit about 200 militants from across Europe to fight in Iraq.

Many in Germany’s Islamic communities have shown sympathy for Muslims fighting jihad, or holy war, in places such as Chechnya or Bosnia, but authorities say a growing number of sympathizers are taking active roles since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

“The war in Iraq has somehow mobilized this scene so that people who before just had some sort of contact or sympathies with extremist groups now think they have to do something,” said Manfred Murck, deputy head of the Hamburg government agency that tracks extremists.

Ansar al-Islam, a group with links to al Qaeda and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, who is leading attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces in Iraq, has been under scrutiny for its efforts to channel money and fighters to Iraq from Germany and other European countries.

Though most German attention immediately after the September 11 attacks focused on Hamburg, where three of the suicide hijackers had lived and studied, efforts have broadened across the continent.

In December, three suspected members of Ansar al-Islam were arrested in Berlin on charges of plotting to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi during a visit to Berlin.

Lokman Armin Mohammed, an Iraqi, was indicted last year in Munich on charges he provided logistical, financial and recruiting support for Ansar al-Islam, purportedly organizing medical equipment for insurgents and the passage of men to join the fight. Still awaiting trial after his 2003 arrest, Mr. Mohammed also is accused of secretly bringing injured insurgents back through Italy and across France for treatment in Britain.

Mr. Murck, the Hamburg official, cited the example of Algerian Abderrazak Mahdjoub as an indication of cross-border connections at work within Ansar al-Islam. He was arrested in Hamburg in November 2003 on an Italian warrant and extradited to Milan in March 2004.

Mr. Mahdjoub went on trial in Milan in February on charges he helped recruit about 200 militants from across Europe to fight in Iraq for Ansar al-Islam.

European counterterrorist officials have estimated that a few hundred militants have gone to Iraq as a result of recruiting efforts on the continent, mostly Muslims whose families immigrated from the Middle East or North Africa.

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